Posted in Book Review

The Retreat by Sherri Smith

Dates Read: October 11, 2021 – November 6, 2021
Date Published: August 13, 2019
Source: ebook via Forge and Sherri Smith in exchange for an honest review

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Four women.
Four secrets.
A weekend that will change them forever…if they survive.

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancΓ© invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends–one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship–Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.

****First off, I feel like it’s worth mentioning right out of the gate some trigger warnings.****
-Molestation of a teenager including later recounting of the molestation
-Drug use and addiction including alcoholism
-Childhood cancer

I will always love a good suspenseful who’dun’it type story. ALWAYS. Even when it takes me almost a month to read it and I’m a little bored most of the way through. We’ll just add it to the list of my toxic reading traits. I WAS interested in this book. I was. Just not the way I wish I had been. I found that I was incredibly annoyed and bored in the beginning with all the talk of “Shelby Spade” and all the high school girl banter back and forth between Katie, Ariel, and Carmen. Even when we got further into the book, we kept getting snippets of Shelby Spade episodes and how they were similar to the real situations Katie was in. I powered through them and I guess they sort of served to set the stage of Katie’s childhood, but I feel like in the grand scheme of the book, they held no weight. They were pointless.

Anywho, so we are following four girls on a wellness retreat. Who do we have?
Katie: our main character. Former child star whose career went down the crapshoot following an accident.
Ellie: Katie’s soon-to-be sister-in-law. She is engaged to Katie’s brother, Nate, and was the one who suggested they visit the retreat together to hopefully bond and help Katie with her alcoholism.
Ariel: One of Katie’s college friends who Katie invited on the retreat
Carmen: Another of Katie’s college friends who was also invited by Katie to the retreat

The book jumps back and forth from each girl’s perspective and is also split up into each day of the retreat. (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)
The first third of the book kind of just annoyed me. It was all just Katie being a brat, Ariel and Carmen being annoying, and of course, the author setting the stage and providing little details and snippets that would prove to be a bit important later on. The first third was why it took me so long to get through this book. I struggled to sit and read this ridiculous high school mean girl drama unfolding on the way to the retreat and on their first night there. We have to read about Ariel sulking because she didn’t get to room with Katie and Katie not caring about anything other than keeping her phone instead of putting it in the basket with everyone else’s during their stay. But again, I get it, the stage was being set. And I don’t think we were ever meant to really like any of these characters. Which… I didn’t.

The second third started to get good… until it fell flat. The third… third… was the most exciting. It was like one of those movies that you sit through and are just “bleh” about until it gets to the last 20 minutes and then everything happens so quickly and you feel like your head is gonna fall off.

So the second third… I was excited. YAY! MURDER! Right off the bat! First page! Now we can start being detectives and try to figure out who it was! But, not even a few pages later, I knew… I knew exactly who did it because it was the only logical explanation. I was just a little disappointed with how easy it was. And THEN I was disappointed that people weren’t dropping like flies after the initial killing. But that’s not the way the story was meant to go, and I get that.

There was a moment in the beginning of the last third of the book where a knife was mentioned and it took me a second to realize they were talking about the murder weapon that killed the first victim. We had spent so long in the middle of the book learning about Katie’s history that I had completely forgotten someone even died. We went from a bloody knife being found to being thrown headfirst into the sea of Katie’s childhood and allllllll of her history. This alone is the reason I took half a star away from the review. I pretty much read the last half of this book without stopping and still managed to be so deterred with other elements of Katie’s convoluted story that I forgot what I was originally here for. MURDER.

I was promised FOUR secrets and I honestly feel like only one of them was a gasp moment when it was revealed. The others weren’t that grand to me. Though, they do play a direct role in the downfall of the characters. So they’re not without purpose.

I feel like I’m being primarily negative though and as you’ve probably noticed, I gave this book 3.5 cats (stars). I did enjoy the story. It was vindictive and manipulative with completely unlikable characters who didn’t make you feel bad for sitting there and cheering on the killer. I LOVE a book where I can be detached from every single character. Not a single main character in this book had any redeeming qualities. We had all of the seven deadly sins and I LOVED that. Pride, greed, wrath, gluttony, envy, lust, sloth… everyone was accounted for. At some point in the book, every one of those sins reared their ugly heads and it was completely entertaining.

Honestly, if some production company were to pick this one up, it would be a good b-list slasher movie. I would watch it.

Overall I did enjoy it. Do I think I’ll remember it later down the road without looking at my notes or someone detailing what the story was about? No. Which is another reason I rated the way I did. But I did definitely enjoy the last half of the book in the moment.

βœŒπŸ’›

Posted in Book Review

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Read Dates: July 27, 2021 – July 28, 2021
Publication Date: July 27, 2021
Source: Owned Hardback

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From Goodreads:

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Mercer. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mercers are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

When I see a Shari Lapena book available for preorder, I preorder it. I rarely even look to see what the book is about. This woman consistently brings the most amazing page-turners I have ever read. I finished this book in just three sittings… and I have a 14-month-old running around wrecking things all day. So they weren’t long sessions. But that’s how easy it is to read her books.

I may have said this before in a previous Lapena mystery novel review, but when you begin one of her books, you may think to yourself that there are too many characters and you’re not going to be able to keep up with who is who. There were only a couple, out of her now 6 books, that did that to me – where I felt I had to make a character sheet so I could quickly remember who I was dealing with and how they fit into the story. This book wasn’t one of them.

Lapena writes in such a way that you never lose sight of the big picture because of confusing variables along the way. She keeps things flowing smoothly and efficiently. I never got bored at any point of this book. Which became a real problem because I had to find a stopping point! But there aren’t any! This book was so amazing. It’ll keep you flipping those pages with the determination to finish the entire book in one sitting.

One of my favorite things about this book was that almost none of the characters were likable. One of them was slightly likable but none of them were likable enough for me to root for them or hope they weren’t the killer.

So, Fred and Sheila Merton are dead. The prime suspects? Their three children: Catherine, Dan, and Jenna. But WHO ACTUALLY DUN’IT!? Were two of them (or all of them) in on it together? Was it just one of them acting alone? Was it someone other than one of the three kids?!

I thought I had things all figured out. And I usually do. Butttt I didn’t. At no point in this book did I have anything figured out. Whether it be a side effect from my mom brain or the fact that I was in a trance reading this because of how captivating it was or maybe just because it was THAT well written? I cannot say because I truly have no idea. But this was such an amazing book that I didn’t really care, I was just happy to be along for the ride. This book just catapulted to the top as my favorite Shari Lapena novel to date. She really outdid herself on this one.

As for errors, I only found two. One was the use of “of” instead of “if”. The other was the use of the name Dan instead of Ted. I didn’t mark down page numbers or count against this book in terms of the rating because I simply didn’t have the capacity to do anything other than to hurry along the pages to find out who on Earth killed Fred and Sheila.

I can’t leave here without saying something about the ending. Obviously I’m not going to give anything away but let me just say… THAT ENDING. Omg. I was gaping at my book and then I was smirking and then I may have even giggled a little. I wish I could say more. I’m recommending this book to everyone I know so I can hear them all say, “Ok, but that ending, right!?” Even if I don’t know you, feel free to shoot me a message and give me a, “Girl, that ending though, right!?!”

If you’re a fan of whodun’it books with SO MANY TWISTS where there are no likable characters and they all could be the killer because they’re all terrible people… well then this is your book. What a delightful (but a little too quick, my bad) read.

I know it’s only been two days but I’m ready for the next one Shari! πŸ˜€

βœŒπŸ’›

Posted in Book Review

The End of Her by Shari Lapena

Read Dates: November 13, 2020 – November 30, 2020
Publication date: July 23, 2020
Source: Owned Hardback

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A young woman and her husband have recently added twins to their happy family. Though, raising twins as a stay at home mom proves to be difficult when Stephanie’s husband, Patrick, is only able to help from the late hour he gets home from work until his bedtime just a few hours later. His job is demanding… but so is hers. The twins are colicky and barely sleep. Soon, Stephanie begins to suffer from sleep deprivation and begins making a few careless mistakes she never thought possible of herself to make. Until, one day, an old friend of her husband’s comes to town and tells her she should be careful and accuses Patrick of the murder of his first wife. Before long, Stephanie begins to question the truth behind her husband’s first marriage and begins to wonder if maybe her careless mistakes, weren’t mistakes at all… and maybe she didn’t cause them.

Much like Lapena’s other novels, this one was incredibly hard to put down. I had my character list all made up by about a third of the way through and it was smooth sailing from there. I rather enjoy playing with my kid but I found myself getting sad when her naps were over (since I read while she’s napping).

The array of characters and the way they intertwine was incredibly satisfying. I always wonder when I pick up one of Lapena’s books how the characters will end up relating to one another. No single character is ever just some random, meaningless person. I LOVE THAT.

The book had me teetering back and forth on who I thought was truly behind things and where I thought the end of the book was headed. Though, the reason this book was only given 4 and not 5 stars is because… I saw the end coming… And all the little “twists” in the middle. I saw all of it coming. Maybe it’s just because there’s not a single book by Shari Lapena that I haven’t read and I’m incredibly familiar with her writing style, but, I knew.

However, that did not take away from the journey to the end that I knew was inevitably coming. It was still incredibly satisfying to watch the events that transpired with each character up until the very last chapter. This was one of those books, like all of the other Lapena books, that are told from multiple POVs. To me, it’s incredibly hard to pull off a story that way. It’s much easier for the multiple POVs to be the downfall in a book. Thankfully, Shari is a pro.

Stephanie was so relatable for me as I read this book shortly after the newborn stage with my own child. Though, that was ONE kid… not twins. Thank goodness. I loved reading about her friends and the play dates. I loved the way the characters overlapped without even knowing it. Being in the same places at the same time or being right down the way from each other.

There’s not really much I can say that I haven’t said before when reviewing a Lapena mystery. They’re so fun to read, even if you have everything figured out. She makes the story such a fun ride and this one was no exception. I will continue to sing her praises forever and ever.

Posted in Book Review

You Have to Believe Me by Sunday Tomassetti

Read Dates: August 27, 2019 – September 4, 2019
Expected Publication Date: September 19, 2019
Source: eARC via Ardent Prose PR

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You Have To Believe Me2

5 cats

Dove is lost. She’s recently lost her husband, Ian, whom she believed to be her one and only, her true love. She didn’t just lose him, she lost him to her best friend Kirsten Best. But soon, they both lose him when he’s murdered and left with no DNA leads for the police to go on. Kirsten suspects Dove, Dove suspects everyone… but both women are determined to get to the bottom of what really happened to Ian.

WHAT A ROLLER COASTER!

So I was invited to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review, and upon going to the Goodreads page to read the synopsis, I was 100% in. Not to mention, the publisher mentioned the book would have a “Minka Kent” feel to it. I discovered Minka last year and was IN LOVE. So, naturally, I was more than willing to give this book a go.
Soon after receiving the eARC, I found that this book was written BY MINKA KENT under the pseudonym Sunday Tomassetti. And that could explain why I was so absolutely taken by this book.

Kent\Tomassetti has a way of fashioning a story around multiple characters and then smoothly delivering the meat of a story in a way that keeps you going and guessing until she reaches the end and she gathers up all those characters you read about throughout the novel and brings them together to show you how their stories intertwine. I LOVE the way she tells a story.

So naturally, I was drawn in from page one of this book. I was never bored. I felt like an armchair detective right along with Dove. Over analyzing everything and writing things down that I thought may be important later on. Little did I know, nothing I was over examining would matter when it came down to who the actual killer was. Because in true Kent fashion, I was given all of these different characters stories to explore and break down that caused me to look in all the wrong places. I LOVED IT.

At first I was thinking Dove was going to be similar to Rachel from The Girl on the Train. A woman gone mad when her husband and her “perfect life” leave her for some other “better” woman. But Dove was so much more than that. I came to really enjoy Dove’s character a lot. The way she didn’t single any one person out… she was always weary of everyone. No matter how long she’d known them or what reasons they lacked to kill her ex husband, she suspected EVERYONE. So looking at the story from her perspective was always enjoyable as she would puzzle out all these possibilities and ridiculous theories behind why a certain person would have been involved.

Kirsten was fun to read as well. I didn’t enjoy her in the beginning. I was kind of in Dove’s corner from the start. Especially since Kirsten was Dove’s best friend before Kirsten began dating her ex husband. I had no sympathy for Kirsten as she sat alone at Ian’s funeral and watched Dove with Ian’s family. But I did come to enjoy Kirsten’s chapters as most of the twists in this book were revealed in her chapters. Not to mention, the things that were happening in Kirsten’s life seemed significant to me… and it turned out they were.

There were multiple supporting characters in the story which was a lot of fun to examine. When I read a mystery with so many characters, I always find myself questioning every last one of them as Dove does in the story. We have Noah, Dove’s boss and friend. Ari, Dove’s co-worker and friend. Michael and Lori, Ian’s parents. David Hobbs, Kirsten’s neighbor who becomes her only friend. There are also some other characters who show up in the story for the sake of finding new information in relation to Ian’s murder. I broke them all down. Every last one of them. But I did NOT see the end coming. I thought I had the killer figured out and also the motive behind the killing, and while I was close, I was wrong.

This book was so amazing and really goes to show that you can “know” a person for most of your life… but do you ever truly KNOW them and know everything they’re capable of?

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery/who dun’it type novel. Minka Kent, Sunday Tomassetti, it doesn’t matter what name she writes under, I’m going to be reading everything this woman pens.

Keri

Posted in Book Review

The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper

(Read dates: January 28, 2019 – February 1, 2019)
Expected Publication date: February 26, 2019
Source: Netgalley via publisher – Simon and Schuster

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FIRST FIVER OF THE YEAR!

First of all, Andrew Pyper, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE? I am scrambling around the internet in a frenzy looking for other books by Pyper. What a writer. WHAT. A. WRITER.

Ok, so this book takes place in the middle of a rain forest in the Pacific Northwest. A family has been called to gather there to read the last will and testament of their estranged father. But there’s a catch to the will: they can all split his assets (which are quite the fortune) but only IF they stay there in the lodge for 30 days. 30 days. With no contact to the outside world. Only them, the lodge, the forest, and the things they haven’t discovered that lurk there… watching them.

Starting this book, I was immediately sucked in. The story is told through the perspective of Aaron, the eldest son of the recently deceased Raymond Quinlan. As a surgeon who works back in the city, saving lives is all Aaron knows. He doesn’t really know how to do anything other than surgery. Especially being in a lodge where he is forced to converse with his family. What he didn’t expect, were the dark turns their stay would take. Every member of the family has a weird feeling about the forest and what lies within the massive acreage. But things really start to pick up when Aaron’s sister sees a man in the woods… watching her. From there, if I tell you anything else… it would be too much.

What I can tell you is how ABSOLUTELY AMAZING this book is. JUST READ IT!!

I was genuinely afraid of what may happen next and boy did I have every right to be. This book threw so many things at me that I did NOT see coming. This was definitely one of those “WTF” type books in the sense that you never really understand what’s happening until the characters lay it all out for you. Highly recommend this for fans of thrillers. I would call this a mystery book as well but it’s so much more a thriller. It will keep you guessing, keep you on the edge of your seat, and leave you struggling to catch your breath when it’s all over.

Special thanks to the publisher for providing the ARC via Netgalley.